The first Christmas looked like a coincidence. From a human perspective, politics set the agenda: Caesar took a census of his peoople. Period. End of story.
(Picture by Danka Peter)
But from the divine viewpoint? God orchestrated ordinary events for extraordinary outcomes.
Think about this past year in your life. Many ordinary events occurred. Most you don’t remember. But God has been working.
It isn’t just the Christmas story. It’s your story too. God uses the power of providence in your life as well.
We can only approach God’s presence God’s way. But are there multiple ways?
The New Testament clearly reveals that only through Jesus can anyone come to God the Father (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:23).
But what about in the Old Testament?
After King David conquered Jerusalem and secured it as his capital, he desired to bring the Ark of the Covenant up from Kiriath-Jearim into his new City of David. But in his passion to have God’s presence, David neglected to follow God’s principles. That negligence of improperly transporting the Ark cost a man his life (2 Samuel 6).
Three months later, David correctly transported the Ark into Jerusalem and placed it in a tent he pitched for its keeping.
In this experience, David gained a profound respect for God’s holiness.
This principle directly relates to the question: did the Old Testament offer only one way to God?
Their request seemed like commonsense. But it wasn’t.
“Let this land be given to your servants as a possession,” the people of Reuben and Gad said to Moses, “do not take us across the Jordan” (Numbers 32:5).
The tribes of Reuben and Gad had huge herds, and the land of Gilead and Jazer had lush pastures.
So they settled east of the Jordan River instead of crossing over into what God had promised.
Their choice shows us why we should never settle for second best with God.
Today you will be told to face the facts. Usually, that means bad news.
- You don’t have the money.
- The doctor’s report doesn’t look good.
- Time is running out on your biological clock.
- The friends whom you’ve been close to for years suddenly dump you.
Facing the facts is a hard part of life.
But think about it: facing the facts isn’t our problem. It’s that we fail to face all of them.
God has facts to factor into our thinking as well.
It takes great vision to see something where there is nothing.
Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, saw the vast expanse of Israel’s Negev as something that offered great potential. In 1953, he settled in the kibbutz Sde Boker, urging Israelis to help him tame the Negev into a new society for Israel.
To many, the idea seemed no more than a pipe dream. As a result, the plea fell on deaf ears, for the arid region receives barely eight inches of rain per year.
In the Negev, life has one uncompromising requirement: water.
Through this simple need in the same land, God taught His people a life-giving lesson.
We can drink from it as well.
Do you know where you’ll be buried?
The place where someone chooses to get buried is always significant.
- A hometown family plot is common.
- The place where one’s ashes are scattered or stored often holds a special association.
- Even unknown soldiers who die in battle occasionally receive a prominent interment.
But in Israel, a burial place often exposed one’s faith. The tombs beside the Kidron Valley bear witness to this truth.
Each one offers a connection to resurrection.
Towering like a fortress over the shoddy buildings that surround it, the ancient structure in Hebron covers a site sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
In elevation, Hebron stands taller than even Jerusalem.
And other than the Temple Mount itself, no other place remains as revered to peoples whose hopes and faiths could not be more diverse.
Few other places offer such a powerful lesson in faith for those of us still drawing a breath.
Sometimes you hear crazy stuff at funerals.
I heard of one set of parents who tragically lost a child, and the minister told them not to weep—but to rejoice in faith. After all, their son was in heaven. It sounds so right—so spiritual.
But it was only half right. Therefore, half wrong.
The Bible reveals that when someone dies, the most natural and right thing to do—even in a life of great faith—is to weep. After Abraham’s wife died, we read:
“Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her.” (Genesis 23:2).
Even Jesus wept at the results of physical death (John 11:35). So, that makes it okay for us too.
Why is weeping right, even if our loved one is in a “better place”?
I ran my first marathon years ago. I call it my first, because that sounds better than calling it my last. But both are true.
At mile 26 in the run, I learned something I had never known before: a marathon is not 26 miles. Don’t believe it when people tell you that. It’s a bald-faced lie.
As I stammered past the 26th mile marker, there was no finish line! I discovered—to my surprise—a marathon is 26.2 miles.
I learned some valuable lessons from that decimal point—as well as from all the running I did to get ready for that crazy race.
Sometimes fear keeps us from enjoying what God has promised. We want so badly to have faith in what the Lord says.
But fear of what we see seems more compelling than mere words.
Gideon longed to believe God. But the enemy army before him was enormous.
It was almost as large as the fears we face today.